Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: Why Chickens?

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pp. 1-18

One morning in July, several years ago, I got a phone call from a man who identified himself as Glenn, from the Poultry Education and Research Center (PERC) at my university. “When do you want to pick up your hens?” he asked. Several weeks earlier, I had been searching for chickens to build up my flock. My favorite hen had died, and I had realized I should call PERC. After all, I had...

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1. Augury

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pp. 19-33

6:45 A.M. One chick jumps on the hen’s back. The hen ruffs up her feathers, crouches down, fans her tail feathers, and spreads her wings. All ten chicks run under her tail and backfeathers, pressing in as tightly as possible. The two Cobb 700s freeze still and silent right where they are standing, on the little hill next to the chicken shed, and the Buff Orpington is quiet in the tall grass. I wonder what...

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2. Biology

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pp. 34-52

“Go to work on an egg” urged the British Egg Board in 1990, in advertisements showing dark-suited men and women riding giant hen’s eggs down crowded city streets. I was living in London that year, reading Guardian reports on Parliamentary debates over human embryo research, and the Egg Board ads made me laugh. What an unfortunate choice of slogan! In the years since, however, that slogan has seemed prophetic, challenging the narrow focus on...

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3. Culture

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pp. 53-74

From the large-format photographs of colorful chickens decorating the restaurant on Tenth Avenue where my family celebrated Father’s Day to the smashing close-ups of exotic breeds in a calendar I leafed through at the Barnes and Noble on Sixteenth Street, New York City seemed full of chicken culture in 2007.1 What do I mean by that term? Until very recently I would have meant something agricultural. As Raymond Williams has observed, “culture in all its...

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4. Disability

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pp. 75-96

One chilly night near the end of December 2007, I sat in a cramped theater watching a chicken crowing on stage. To be more precise, I was watching a woman acting the role of a disabled man crowing like a chicken. Celeste Moratti, an Italian actress living in New York City, was playing the role of Antonio, a psychiatric hospital patient who believed he was a chicken. Chickens and disability: this unlikely combination of themes had drawn me to the...

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5. Epidemic

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pp. 97-118

Remember the children’s story in which Chicken-licken is hit on the head by a falling acorn? She turns it into a global catastrophe, racing around to warn all her friends, “The sky is falling!” (Anon. 1914). This story came to mind one morning in 2005 as I was writing about issues of risk and safety. That night I...

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6. Fellow-Feeling

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pp. 119-137

I had been raising chickens for a while—sitting with them in the morning as they scratched for insects in the dirt, making sure they were safely on the perch when I closed them in at night—when I began to think about fellow-feeling. The curious word came to mind when I thought about my feeling for my chickens. A kind of empathy—born in the intimate encounters that are so much a part of chicken farming: pouring the birds scratch grain and clean water as they mill...

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7. Gender

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pp. 138-155

Two versions of the same children’s story have pride of place on my office shelf: a large-format illustrated pulp paperback version of The Little Red Hen, produced by the Saalfield Publishing Company in Akron, Ohio, in 1928, and a glossy child-sized hardback version of The Little Red Hen (Rand McNally Junior Elf Book) published in 1957. These children’s books provide my point of entry to...

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8. Hybridity

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pp. 156-177

In February 2008 I spent several days in intense conversation with artist Koen Vanmechelen—at his kitchen table in Meeuwen-Gruitrode, Belgium, where we sat surrounded by cabinets on which perched taxidermied chickens; on the bright red couch in his living room, under the vivid photograph of a white rooster with a bright red comb; at the dining table, where from a sideboard stared three stuffed lizard-chicken hybrids; and finally in his Toyota...

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9. Inauguration

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pp. 178-197

Writing before the swearing-in ceremony for the forty-fourth president of the United States, and the first African American president, Washington Post reporter John Kelly recalled the original meaning of the term inauguration:
The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama allows us to have a quick lesson in Roman history. Though its precise etymology is disputed...

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Conclusion: Zen of the Hen

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pp. 198-206

This book ends, as it began, with sitting—or to be exact, with Zen meditation. One morning in July 2005, the idea for a book appeared in my mind, chapters and all, while I was meditating. I was keeping chickens at the time; just a week before I had added to my flock the two Cobb 700 pullets whose short lives I chronicled in the introduction. Bred for meatier breasts and easier deboning...

Notes

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pp. 207-226

References

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pp. 227-240

Index

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pp. 241-256

About the Author

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